Dragging One’s Tail in the Mud on 1 May 2023

The Other China



China Heritage marks May Day 2023 in the company of Qu Yuan, Zhuangzi and Liu Chan, voices from The Other China.


The brazen bell is smashed and discarded;
The earthen crock is thunderously sounded

黃鐘譭棄 瓦釜雷鳴


‘Is it better to risk one’s life by speaking truthfully and without concealment, or to save one’s skin by following the whims of the wealthy and highly placed?
‘Is it better to preserve one’s integrity by means of a lofty detachment, or to wait on a king’s mistress with flattery, fawning, and strained, smirking laughter?
‘Is it better to be honest and incorruptible and to keep oneself pure, or to be accommodating and slippery, to be compliant as lard or leather?
‘Is it better to have the aspiring spirit of a thousand li stallion, or to drift this way and that like a duck on water, saving oneself by rising and falling with the waves?
‘Is it better to run neck and neck with the swiftest, or to follow in the footsteps of a broken hack?
‘Is it better to match wing-tips with the flying swan, or to dispute for scraps with chicken and ducks?
‘Of these, alternatives, which is auspicious and which is ill-omened? which is to be avoided and which is to be followed?’

from Divination 卜居, attributed to Qu Yuan 屈原
trans. David Hawkes, Songs of the South, pp.204-205


— Geremie R. Barmé
Editor, China Heritage
1 May 2023

At Home on May First


Liu Chan 劉蟾

‘Steering clear of crowds, I‘ll drag my tail in the mud.’


— Liu Chan

Online you often see people who think they are ‘sagacious’. They’re always on the look out for discordant voices and they make a show of worrying about the state of the nation in the most self-indulgent manner. They warn of the dangers posed by ‘the tyranny of democracy’ while assiduously ignoring real acts of violence. These creatures in human form revel in virtue signaling and are oblivious to all human decency.

I made this painting for the first day of the May Day holidays.



劉蟾大生30 April 2023


Zhuangzi’s Turtle

Once, when Zhuangzi was fishing in the Pu River, the king of Chu sent two officials to go and announce to him: ‘I would like to trouble you with the administration of my realm.’

Zhuangzi held on to the fishing pole and, without turning his head, said, ‘I have heard that there is a sacred tortoise in Chu that has been dead for three thousand years. The king keeps it wrapped in cloth and boxed, and stores it in the ancestral temple. Now would this tortoise rather be dead and have its bones left behind and honored? Or would it rather be alive and dragging its tail in the mud?’

‘It would rather be alive and dragging its tail in the mud,’ said the two officials.

Zhuangzi said, ‘Go away! I’ll drag my tail in the mud!’

莊子釣於濮水,楚王使大夫二人往先焉,曰:願以境內累矣。莊子持竿不顧,曰:吾聞楚有神龜,死已三千歲矣,王巾笥而藏之廟堂之上。此龜者,寧其死為留骨而貴乎,寧其生而曳尾塗中乎。 二大夫曰:寧生而曳尾塗中。莊子曰:往矣。吾將曳尾於塗中。

from ‘Autumn Waters’
Zhuangzi 莊子 · 秋水
translated by Burton Watson